Two Democrats invoked the nation's history of turning away Jewish refugees near the start of World War II on Wednesday in calling for support for the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who have been storming the U.S. border in recent months from Central America.
"I also remind people of a time in the past around World War II where this country unwisely closed its borders to people who are fleeing the Holocaust in Germany," Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said on the Senate floor, BuzzFeed reports.
"They came here, they were turned back, sent back, many of them to certain death in the death camps.
"That was a sorry part of our history. Usually our history reflects what we see in the Statute of Liberty, a beckoning torch, but now the refugee crisis has come back to our border.
"Where are those principles?" Leahy later asked. "We forgot them at the beginning of the Holocaust. Look at the people who died. The number of Jews who went to the ovens because we forgot our principles."
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said that he would work with the Obama administration to address the housing needs of any of the 57,000 illegal minors arrested in South Texas since October should it become necessary.
More than 90,000 minors are projected by the White House to be apprehended by the time the federal fiscal year ends in September.
"My inclination is to remember what happened when a ship full of Jewish children tried to come to the United States in 1939 and the United States turned them away, and many of them went to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps," Patrick said, The Boston Globe reports.
"I think we are a bigger-hearted people than that as Americans, and certainly as residents of Massachusetts," he added. "Now getting from there to a practical solution, I have not done yet. I'm trying to think that through."
Both Leahy and Patrick are referencing the story of the St. Louis, a ship that sailed from Germany in the spring of 1939 carrying about 900 Jewish refugees, the Globe reports.
The vessel was forced to return to Europe and more than a quarter of the passengers are known to have died in the Holocaust, according to information from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum cited by the Globe.
Patrick did not criticize the Obama administration’s handling of the border crisis. They are close personal friends, the Globe reports.
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